Among the things that Chad Adcox, Manzano High School’s football coach, can give thanks for this year, having Andrew Erickson on his sideline is near the top of the list.
“Andrew? He is the epitome of what I want out of one of my football players,” said Adcox. “He’s a great athlete, and he has no ego. He just wants to do what he’s asked to do.”
The best athlete on the Monarchs? That’s quarterback Jordan Byrd.
The most valuable player on the Monarchs? It could be Erickson.
“He’s their best football player,” La Cueva coach Brandon Back said.
Manzano’s undefeated 2017 season is a byproduct of myriad factors. Like Byrd. A tremendous defense. A veteran roster. Blazing team speed. The running of Xavier Ivey-Saud.
He runs effectively, but he’s nowhere close to being the team’s leading rusher.
He receives dependably, although his season totals could be described as moderate compared to other top athletes at that position.
And he leads Manzano in interceptions (four) from his cornerback position.
“Very valuable,” Byrd said of Erickson. “He’s one of a kind. I’m just glad I have him on the field.”
Erickson, 17, is different in this way, too: He’s not even a student at Manzano.
A resident of Sandia Park, about 20 minutes away, Erickson is home schooled. He has been since he was of an elementary school age. So has his younger brother, Austin. Their mother, Tyra, is their teacher.
“We both got some bad teachers the same year,” Andrew said with a smile. “And my mom said, ‘We’re done with public school.’ ”
The irony? The Ericksons were living in Las Cruces at the time.
And that’s where Andrew and Austin — who is Andrew’s backup at the slot receiver position — return Friday night, as No. 1 Manzano (11-0) squares off with No. 4 Las Cruces (10-1) in a Class 6A state football semifinal at the Field of Dreams.
“Las Cruces is a great team,” Erickson said. “I’m excited to see how our guys match up.”
Erickson may not share any classes or a lunch with his Manzano teammates, and he’s rarely on campus, but he has been perhaps the team’s most important two-way player.
He has rushed for 325 yards, but scored six touchdowns. He has 35 receptions — nine of them for scores. And he also has six 2-point conversions. Plus one pick-six.
Tellingly, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Erickson is a member of Manzano’s vaunted 4×100- and 4×200-meter relay squads, two relays in which Byrd also participates. Erickson is the team’s second-fastest athlete, and Erickson’s big-play capabilities are practically on par with that of the Monarchs’ more famous senior quarterback.
Erickson has two touchdowns this year of over 90 yards — including a 99-yard run against Rio Rancho.
“It couldn’t go better for me,” said Erickson. “I’m having a blast, and I’m grateful for the brothers I’ve made on this team.”
Despite his stature on the Monarchs roster, Erickson doesn’t have colleges filling his phone with text messages. Adams State and Eastern New Mexico have offered scholarships; the University of New Mexico is recruiting him, Erickson said.
Ideally, he said, he’d become a Lobo, play football and join the school’s engineering program.
“I’m good at taking things apart and putting them back together,” he said.
He most certainly is a glue for Manzano, which is two victories from winning the school’s first football championship. But Erickson demurs when asked if he knew back in August that he’d have this kind of impact in such a historic season.
“I wanted to do everything I could for the team,” he said. “Coach has given me the opportunity to help as much as I’ve been able to.”